5 Top Tips for a Healthy, Adaptive Supply Chain

It may seem like common sense, but the importance of a nimble, flexible supply chain cannot be overstated.

5 October 2021

In summer 2021, PCI’s own David Chan (VP of supply chain and operations) sat down with Graham Kilshaw (CEO of Lectrix), to discuss the state of the supply chain and what to expect after an unusual 2020 and 2021.

It may seem like common sense, but the importance of a nimble, flexible supply chain cannot be overstated. When disaster strikes – whether it’s an unexpected material shortage or a global pandemic – a well-managed supply chain should be able to quickly determine and implement new solutions with as little disruption as possible.

In this post, we’ll highlight five of the most critical insights David provided on keeping an electronic manufacturing service (EMS) provider’s supply chain strong and adaptive even in unprecedented circumstances.

  1. Collaborate with customers.
    Long before COVID-19 existed, PCI had adopted a collaborative approach with its customers to develop the supply chain in a reliable, flexible way. As a contract manufacturer, some of PCI’s products are designed by the customers, while some of our products are designed by PCI. Either way, during the initial design stages, they work with customers to identify potential suppliers and take into consideration all aspects of manufacturing at their location, as well as the logistics of getting parts to the factory for the final assembly. This approach allows both PCI and customers to be aware of potential issues well in advance.

  2. Collaborate with suppliers.
    After deciding on a supplier with the customer, collaboration with the supplier is key. Providers should understand each level of their supply chain and work with them to develop plans, reduce costs and put fail-safes and back-ups in place in case of disruption. As a result, many issues can be predicted and prevented. If a problem does arise, all parties quickly where the critical areas and bottlenecks will emerge and can immediately focus attention and resources there.

  3. Stay knowledgeable and current on new and emerging technologies.
    Keeping up with the most current technology available for manufacturing and supply chain will give your provider a huge advantage in helping customers organize and design their products. When customers are educated in the available tools and use them to work with their EMS provider, it creates what David calls “technological synergy.” Processes and standards can then be developed that lend themselves to a cleaner, more efficient supply base and supply chain stage.

  4. Make use of digitalization for communication and planning.
    In the vein of technological synergy, digital tools and initiatives are an effective way to plan and protect the supply chain from risk. PCI uses SAP, an enterprise resource planning (ERP) software. Through SAP, they can instantly communicate with suppliers and develop competencies within the organization to effectively communicate with supply bases in other regions. For example, PCI has a base in North Asia which can reach out via SAP and allow them to readily visit if need arises.

  5. Even in times of normal production, always prepare for supply disruption.
    This is an evergreen principle which PCI lived by pre-pandemic. One way to do this is to ensure your organization is attuned to market trends and predictions so that you’re able to operate at the right level of both demand and supply. As a high-mix, low-volume EMS provider, PCI must be able to manage lots of highly complex SKUs efficiently, and overproducing leads to bottlenecks. Reflecting the appropriate levels of supply and demand are key. Overall, it’s important to always remain sensitive to impending supply disruption in whatever form it may present. Pay attention to telltale signs and feedback from the market that suggest the market may be “getting tight.” David emphasized this rule of thumb: If the market is already in the middle of a shortage, your organization should start to prepare for a surplus once supply catches up.

Thanks to these big-picture, protective measures at each level production, PCI was able to prevent most of the major challenges faced by other providers in the industry this last year and a half. PCI’s 30+ years of EMS experience and Lean Six Sigma manufacturing expertise allows for customizable and adaptable manufacturing lines to meet any customer requirements.

Shorter change-over time and leaner material control means we can provide our partners with high-quality products at lower manufacturing costs, and we can quickly scale production as needs arise. Contact PCI today to learn more about our capabilities.

You can also view the full interview with David Chan here.

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